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La luce: not only light!

Let's talk about the noun la luce (the light). Basically the noun is used much as it is in English (and feel free to do a search of luce in Yabla videos), but there is a special meaning of this noun, especially in colloquial speech, that you need to know about. Simply put, it means "electricity." It's used especially in reference to the electric bill or electrical current in general.  


Perhaps the first use of electricity in Italian households was for lightbulbs. Likely, households were still heating with la cucina economica (a wood stove used both for heating and cooking), but the advent of the lightbulb must have been a huge change. So "light" is what "electricity" might have meant for Italian households at the beginning. In any case, the term luce stuck and is still in common usage.


Ci stanno le bollette da pagare, luce, gas!

There are the utility bills to pay: electricity, gas!

Io non teng 'na lira.

I don't have a dime.


I'm sorry.

Captions 10-12, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 6

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Ci tagliano la luce?

They cut off our electricity?

E noi ci alleniamo a lume di candela.

So we'll train by candlelight.

Captions 27-28, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 7

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La corrente

One other way Italians often refer to electricity is with the noun la corrente (the electrical current).


Oh, a proposito di luce, vedi che qua corrente [elettrica] non ce ne sta, eh.

Oh, speaking of light, you see that here there's no electricity, huh.

Caption 25, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 9

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"Powerstrip" in Italian?

Of course, in English, we often use the word "power" to mean "electricity."  In fact, we have an object called a powerstrip. We can plug in multiple plugs, and the powerstrip gets plugged into the outlet. So how do we say that in Italian?

You'll never guess. It's called una ciabatta. Una ciabatta is a house slipper!  It's also the name of a kind of bread! From Wikipedia:

Ciabatta is an Italian white bread made from wheat flour, water, salt, yeast, and olive oil, created in 1982 by a baker in Adria, province of Rovigo, Veneto, Italy, in response to the popularity of French baguettes.


If you can't think of the word ciabatta when buying a powerstrip, you can also use the compound noun una presa multipla (a multiple socket).

So if we want to talk about the male and female parts of an electrical connection, we have la spina (the plug —the male part) and la presa (the socket — the feminine part).

There's always more to learn. It's kind of fun to learn about the (sometimes colorful) words Italians use to talk about mundane things like electricity and plugs.

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